Cale Makar had to be on his last legs.
Already leading the NHL in average ice time, he had labored through an astronomical 32:11 in regulation as the Avalanche rallied from a 2-0 third-period deficit. But he found just enough in the tank to score his 10th goal of the season in overtime, snapping a five-game winless streak with one of Colorado’s most emphatic wins of the season.
It was the team’s second multi-goal comeback win this season. Third-pairing defenseman Brad Hunt scored his first Avalanche goal in his 14th game to tie it in the third period, an unlikely hero sandwiched by the usual suspects for the Avs (20-15-3).
Avs dominate this time, even when finishing wasn’t going their way
For two periods, it felt like a game that would be the inverse of the last one, with the same cruel result. The Avs outshot the Oilers 32-15 at 5-on-5 but couldn’t find a lucky bounce.
Unheralded players like Hunt and key guys who have struggled recently stepped up. Defenseman Sam Girard entered his 32nd game at minus-13 on the season. He was involved in one of the defensive breakdowns that led to a goal during Colorado’s meltdown in Vancouver two nights earlier. But he skated well this time, making two fantastic plays against the indomitable Connor McDavid in the defensive zone. The first was a savvy stick-check; the second, a sliding stop while Edmonton was on the rush to reclaim possession.
Mysteries of goalie interference and other costly calls against Avalanche
Girard’s superb hustle continued during the ensuing Avalanche breakout. But like another one of Colorado’s effort plays Saturday night, this one turned sour.
Girard picked himself and skated to the other end of the ice, positioning himself for a rebound opportunity after a shot by MacKinnon. But his shot missed the net, and his momentum carried him into the crossbar. He was rewarded for his effort with a goalie interference penalty.
The irony of how Edmonton scored made it sting even more. With three seconds remaining on the power play, a slap shot bounced off the end boards and into the crease. As the puck trickled through Georgiev’s legs, Hyman’s stick prodded the goalie’s right blocker. Bednar challenged the goal, claiming goalie interference against the Oilers, but the call on the ice stood.
The failed challenge gave Edmonton another two minutes of man advantage, and Erik Johnson went to the box with 13 seconds left on that power play. The Avs ended up playing almost six consecutive minutes short-handed, a deflating coda to the second period.
The Oilers’ first goal came from an even more questionable penalty. Alex Newhook was whistled for interference during what he thought was a clean battle for positioning in Edmonton’s crease. Newhook was still laughing as he took his seat in the box.
Bednar split up Rantanen and MacKinnon, and it worked
In the search for answers after losing five consecutive games, Bednar blended his lineup. Andreas Englund was a healthy scratch; Kurtis MacDermid moved to defense, while Jacob MacDonald rejoined the fourth forward line. Evan Rodrigues was back from a minor injury; Denis Malgin was out.
But most notably, MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen were split up. Rodrigues slotted in Rantanen’s usual top-line right wing position. Rantanen played on J.T. Compher’s second line.
Both star players were outstanding. MacKinnon had nine shots on goal by second intermission and hit the inside of the post, but he couldn’t catch a break. So he made his own: Three minutes into the third, he carried the puck from Colorado’s defensive zone up the middle of the ice, splitting two defenders. He created his own breakaway and finished it smoothly for his 10th goal. He finished with 11 shots; Rantanen had nine.